Complex Art

My poem “Complex Art” is – more or less – a pastiche of “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.  I like to think of it as more of a tribute to the Hopkins poem than anything else.  The word “pastiche” is often confused with “parody”, and I certainly had no intention of making fun of Hopkins’ original.

In “Pied Beauty”, Hopkins (1844-89) – a fervent Jesuit – was giving praise to God for the teeming variety and unexpected contrasts manifested in nature and life in general.  The poem begins:

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple- colour as a brinded cow;

He goes on to list a few examples of this variety.  It is the first line of the second verse, however, that struck a particular chord with me:

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

I suddenly realised that what I wanted to do was a poem celebrating quirkiness, oddity, eccentricity in the cultural sphere.  To anyone interested in a wide variety of cultural events, it is easy to get depressed, these days, when the increasing commercialisation of culture seems to produce only bland bestsellers and “X-Factor” copycats.  Hopkins, himself, was a fine example of quirkiness.  Frustrated by the rigid conventions of standard verse, he devised his own form of poetry, with his notions of “inscape”, “instress” and “sprung rhythm”.  He described “Pied Beauty” as a “curtal sonnet”, comprised of eleven lines, instead of the normal fourteen.  My poem “Complex Art” is nothing like as revolutionary as Hopkins’ verse; but its sentiments are genuinely heartfelt.


Let us give praise to complexity in art;
to the odd, the quirky, the recondite.
Formulaic pap limits us; cuts us, like a knife.
Who can live, solely, on moronic pop charts?
We need the outré, the strange, to switch on our light.
No dumbed-down, blinkered vision; so much more to life!

All things left-field, twisted and tart,
can breach our defences; pierce us with delight.
Rigid uniformity leads only to strife;
hinders expression of the human heart.
Let complexity be rife!



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